Mahony Resources – September 1-16, 2002
By Charles A. Coulombe
The sex scandals rocking the Los Angeles archdiocese have attracted world-wide attention; if anything, secular journals have shown far more interest than have Catholic ones. Here at home, KFI AM radio's Bob and Ken have not only convened crowds of alleged molestees outside the chancery office for a "teach-in," they have called repeatedly for Cardinal Roger Mahony's resignation. The New Times, an alternative arts and entertainment weekly, has kept reporter Ron Russell hard at work over the past few months chronicling the unfolding crisis and our cardinal's attempts to deal with it; moreover, the paper's editorial column, "The Finger," has had some rather harsh comments to make about Mahony.
Given the cardinal's unfavorable press, it is not too surprising that he has done what many other Southern Californian magnates in business, entertainment and politics have done in similar circumstances: hired a public relations firm. According to James Bemis, writing in the May 2, 2002 California Political Review: "Mahony's plan, evidently, for handling the controversy threatening to consume his episcopacy is more P.R.: he's just hired Weber Shandwick, an expensive public relations firm, to help extricate him from this self-created fiasco. Local parishioners must find that comforting."
Rumored to charge its clients as high as $500 per hour, Weber Shandwick boasts an important client base. On July 17, it was reported that they had picked up six Unilever brands as part of their consumer marketing practice. These included "all" of Unilever's laundry detergent, Q-tips, Mentadent toothpaste, ThermaSilk hair care products and Degree antiperspirant, as well as the Unilever Bestfoods brand, Ragú. In addition to Unilever, Weber Shandwick's consumer marketing practice includes well-known brands such as the Milk Mustache/got milk? campaign, Kraft, Harley-Davidson, Elizabeth Arden, Dunkin' Donuts, Campbell's Soup and Burger King. One of Weber Shandwick's top global priorities has also been medical companies. The past two years have seen international client names such as Pharmacia, Pfizer and Eli Lilly join the firm's client list. PRWeek recently named Weber Shandwick the UK's fastest growing healthcare practice. Thus Cardinal Mahony and the archdiocese have joined an all-star lineup.
But of course, as CEO of the archdiocese, Cardinal Mahony was faced with a much greater problem than establishing mere brand recognition. In the face of the cardinal's alleged cover-up of clerical misdeeds, Weber Shandwick was required to engage in what the company calls "crisis management." According to the company's literature: "crises have the potential to cause lasting damage to a company's reputation. Weber Shandwick has seasoned, senior crisis management experts who can prepare for and guide our clients through crises. Weber Shandwick's first-rate global crisis management experts have successfully advised clients on environmental, healthcare and financial disasters, organizational restructuring and downsizing, product recalls, labor issues and much more. All our offices around the globe are ready to help clients avert or work through a crisis. Additionally, Rowan Blewitt/Weber Shandwick of Herndon, Virginia, is a dedicated crisis management consulting firm that leverages extensive experience with the most advanced communications response methods available."
Despite its understanding of the archdiocese's unique needs, Weber Shandwick was not destined to last long with Cardinal Mahony; something more vigorous was required. In addition to Sister Judy Murphy and John McNicholas, Mahony enlisted more legal aid and hired J. Michael Hennigan, of Hennigan Bennett and Dorman in downtown Los Angeles. Hennigan is a distinguished corporate attorney: he has lectured at the annual conference of the Institute for Corporate Counsel (on securities litigation); assists the poor through the Legal Aid Foundation; and in legal circles has even coined a maxim: "ethics don't mean much in the absence of courage."
Once in harness, the archdiocese's new legal gun dispensed with Weber Shandwick's services and hired Sitrick and Co., a Century City-based firm more particularly involved with crisis management. According to the May 30 Los Angeles Times, Hennigan said he hired Sitrick because the archdiocese "was not doing well in the press. I thought the press was focusing on the very negative aspects without the whole story coming out."
Sitrick's clients have included the bankrupt fiber optic network operator Global Crossing; actress Halle Berry after her traffic accident; comedian Paula Poundstone after her child-endangerment case; and Orange County during its 1995 bankruptcy. The Los Angeles Times' initial claim that the company represented Enron has been denied; the Times later retracted the statement.
"We're really proud to be involved in this," said the firm's head, Michael Sitrick, 54 (whom the Los Angeles Times called the "Wizard of Spin"). "We're confident the church is taking proactive measures to make sure this doesn't happen again. I don't have to be Catholic to be anxious to help them work through this." Sitrick has met a couple of times with Mahony to "determine the facts." His goal is "to try to get perceptions of the Church to match reality." "First we determine what the facts are," said Sitrick, explaining his strategy. "We determine what is the perception. Is the perception equal to the reality? We're trying to get perceptions to equal reality. You can't do anything about what was, only what is and what will be."
Sitrick is co-author of Spin: How to Turn the Power of the Press to Your Advantage. The book commences with a fictional 1995 radio confrontation between a U.S. aircraft carrier and a Canadian lighthouse off Newfoundland's coast. In his book, Sitrick mentions Ivy Lee, the public relations man called in by John D. Rockefeller after Rockefeller's guards opened fire on tents housing striking workers and their families, killing more than a dozen of them. Lee spun the event to improve Rockefeller's public image.
Sitrick's work will not be a free-will offering, apparently. Declining to state how much his services will cost Los Angeles Catholics, Sitrick declared "our rates are comparable to lawyers' rates." Dealing with companies in bankruptcy he has reportedly asked for a $100,000 retainer. Sitrick's company was criticized for charging Orange County $450,000. Later that figure was reduced by $40,000 in exchange for the county hurrying payment. Sitrick defends his bill, saying the county audited all the fees and concluded that they were appropriate. Whatever Sitrick's fees will be, they must be added to the amounts the archdiocese's faithful have and will pay the victims of the cardinal's clergy.
Archdiocesan spokesman Tod Tamberg told the Los Angeles Times, "we're pleased and grateful to have someone like Mike Sitrick with his understanding of the media market.... What we find in media coverage is the past mixing with the present. Trying to cut through all that with the clear pastoral message of the Cardinal has proven difficult for us."
Given the latest developments in the molestation cases, the cardinal's pastoral message (and that of his lawyers and P.R. maven) will soon have even more difficulties. According to Russell in the July 15 New Times, the worst is yet to come. After no less than three rounds of subpoenaing, the Grand Jury and Los Angeles County district attorney Steve Cooley are at last beginning to receive records regarding the 72 accused molesters -- more subpoenas are sure to follow. The RICO law has been invoked against the archdiocese, and even the relationship of Cooley's spokesman, Joe Scott, to the defrocked Santa Rosa bishop Patrick Ziemann (they are cousins) does not seem to have much effect on the course of events.
Ziemann, formerly a close friend of the cardinal's, the spiritual director of the now defunct Our Lady Queen of Angels seminary and an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, was forced to resign after it became known that he had had a relationship with a priest he had brought up from Central America and ordained (despite his lack of seminary training). It has been alleged that Cardinal Mahony's willingness to pay out over five million dollars from archdiocesan funds last year in a molestation settlement was primarily intended to keep Ziemann off the witness stand. As another accusation against the bishop has emerged, it may well be that the cardinal's efforts and payments have been for naught. The plaintiff claims that his molestation by Ziemann began at age 12. The plaintiff says that Ziemann later paid him for sexual favors and that the relationship ended when Ziemann was named auxiliary bishop for Los Angeles in 1987. Many question how Sitrick will be able to handle Ziemann's testimony, should it become necessary to do so. The bishop is currently at a monastery in Arizona.
But these are developments of existing situations. Even more disturbing for the archdiocese must be the most recent news from Sacramento. On July 12, Governor Gray Davis signed into law a measure extending by three years the statute of limitations for plaintiffs to file civil lawsuits against child molesters and organizations that knowingly shelter them. According to Russell, "more significantly, it provides a one-year window of opportunity, beginning January 1, for any alleged abuse victim to pursue legal action against the church. That means untold numbers of priest abuse victims who've never come forward because the time limit for their filing a lawsuit expired will now get their chance."
Another bill introduced in the state assembly, AB 299, would force the church to turn over materials demanded by law enforcement promptly -- something which has not happened in the current round of scandals. Under current law, clerics, teachers, social workers and certain other professionals are required to place a phone call within 36 hours to a law enforcement agency or county child welfare department upon suspecting child abuse, but they are not required to turn over written reports or other documentary evidence. Under the new bill, Church officials would now have to reveal such paperwork after an investigating agency has asked for them.
According to Russell, "the bill's co-sponsors, Riverside County assemblymen Rod Pacheco and Russ Bogh, both Republicans, have acknowledged that the legislation is a direct response to Mahony's stonewalling of law enforcement."
But despite all of these events, the cardinal's commitment to the spiritual side of his office continues unabated. In keeping with his role as chief pastor of Los Angeles, Mahony issued a statement on the passing of one of the city's best-known individuals, movie mogul Lew Wasserman. Writing in The Tidings of Friday, June 7, 2002, the cardinal declared of the man who brought us The Last Temptation of Christ, and much else: "the passing of Lew Wasserman closes an era in the entertainment industry which will never again be experienced. Lew was both the architect and the patriarch of the motion picture and television industries, and his creativity and energies took the industry forward in ways never envisioned. What you and I take for granted in today's entertainment medium did not just happen. It took extraordinary initiative, daring, courage and talent."
Certainly, it took daring, given the number of times films produced by Wasserman have been condemned by Catholic bishops. In any case, the cardinal went on to assure us: "the English language does not possess the superlatives needed to describe this exceptional human being and leader. I considered him a dear friend, a wonderful counselor, and a model leader. In the Hebrew scriptures, he would surely be called both prophet and patriarch, because so he was."
Perhaps. But Wasserman's rumored mob connections, the nature of much of the cinematic material he produced, and the situation in which the cardinal and the archdiocese's people find themselves gave a deep poignancy to the cardinal's penultimate sentence. "May our lives and our own commitment reflect ever more fully the vision and gifts which he lived out so magnificently." Surely none knew better than Wasserman how to use spin -- a vision and gift the cardinal might be able to use.
The Hand of God and Theirs
By Hilary E. MacGregor
Five hundred years from now when people stand and marvel at the soaring adobe structure at Temple and Grand in downtown Los Angeles, they will learn the names of José Rafael Moneo, the cathedral's architect, and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the man who conjured it to life.
Perhaps they will even take away the name of sculptor Robert Graham, who built the 25-ton Great Bronze Doors, or John Nava, who designed the tapestries that line the nave.
But visitors of the future will never hear of Juan Hernandez, a carpenter from Mexico who worked on the Our Lady of Angels Cathedral for five years, or Eleazar "Chay" Contreras, the layout superintendent who plotted the angles of the cathedral in three-dimensional space, or Dana Baker, a marble mason who laid stones in the floor, and granite in the baptistery. Nor will they learn the names of Charles Coury, who hid scriptures in the rafters, or Dennis Paoletti, who calculated the way sound will reverberate through the basilica, or Francis Krahe, whose lighting turns the cathedral at night into a giant lantern.
No one has exact numbers, but C. Terry Dooley, senior vice president of Morley Construction, who worked at the cathedral for six years, estimates that 2,000 people worked on the $200-million cathedral complex downtown from start to finish.
These are some of the invisible ones, whose hands laid the stones, poured the concrete, placed the alabaster in the windows, laid the wires. But unlike the theaters, apartments, casinos and malls that are their livelihood, some craftsmen and construction workers also invested something of themselves in this cathedral.
Dooley said the workers' tangible investment in the building was part of Moneo's plan. When the contractor proposed casting the adobe-colored concrete off-site, and transporting it downtown--which would have been easier--Moneo called the idea "an abomination."
"I want to see the hands of the workers," Moneo told them.
Some of these artisans and tradesmen believe God chose them for this job. Others prayed for guidance on the site, as the enormity of the task withered their courage. Still others found themselves--unexpectedly--caught under the spell of the sacred space.
Those who worked on it like to say--although they are not strictly correct--that there are no right angles in this cathedral. There are certainly few.
All the points of the structure, every corner, every wall of every chapel, the baptismal, the floor, was ultimately measured from a single point at the corner or Temple and Grand using a piece of computerized surveying equipment called a digital theodolite. The tool used lasers projected into space to plot the corners of the building.
Contreras was the layout superintendent on the project. In order to construct the 800-plus angles, he plotted more than 11,000 points. "We have to shoot the three dimensional point coordinates into the middle of gravity so we can build to that point," said Contreras, a slight man with bright eyes, fine features and a boyish enthusiasm that makes even his most esoteric point sound fascinating.
Last Tuesday morning, he pointed with pride at some of the sharpest corners, the difficult angles, the canted slope of the chapels of the ambulatory and the radiating web of floor stones.
Everything that followed--the placement of wooden forms built by carpenters, the pouring of concrete by laborers--depended on Contreras having perfectly plotted the points. If a wall was off by even an inch, workers had to fight the tiny error from floor to roofline or the corner had to be remade. "The work was so intense," Contreras said. "There were instances on the job site when I looked up at the sky and I said, 'Help me, God.' I had this responsibility. I really didn't want to make an error. I believe God helped me and there it is."
The hours were crazy. The concrete had to be poured in the inky blackness of early morning--at 2:30 or 3 a.m.--to keep the water below 70 degrees and ensure hundreds of years of durability. Riding high on the building, as the sun rose over the city, were some of the best times for Contreras.
"Oh, it was great," Contreras said. "There were moments when you were up in the sky and you could see all the downtown high rises, and the mountains, and it just felt like you were going to heaven."
Through months of taking measurements and calculating points, Contreras eventually came to understand in his bones the symbolic language of the building, just as Moneo hopes visitors will. It happened one day inside the cathedral, as Contreras plotted the axes of the church, and the floor stones that radiated from the altar. "I realized it was a cross," Contreras said. "Then I would think, when I was working at the back of the church, I am working on His right foot.... Just by knowing I worked on the cathedral, to me it was like a gift of God. Like I was born to be building His house."
Juan Hernandez, 50, is a carpenter, like his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather before him. Like Jesus.
Hernandez worked on the cathedral site longer than any other workman. He was known for the cowboy-shaped hard hat he wore on the job; the cardinal liked to tease him about it. Hernandez grew up in San Miguel de Allende, just blocks from that city's colonial cathedral. His ancestors built furniture, cabinets, guitars and pianos, and so has he. For Hernandez, who is Catholic, this was the job of a lifetime. "I never understand the mind of the Lord, what he has prepared for me," Hernandez said. "But I know he wants me here, that he chose me to be here. This was like the culmination of my career."
The job strained every skill he had. Hernandez worked on many walls in the cathedral, including the main northeast wall and the Guadalupe chapel. None of the forms he built had square angles; all were mitered.
Over five years, as his life changed dramatically, the cathedral offered him solace and strength. His wife grew ill. He would leave her in the morning, knowing as he left, that she might not be alive when he returned. On those days, he would try to be the first person in the building, and he would pray. When the sun came up, he thanked God for a new day. Sometimes he got to see the sun set, and he thanked God for that too. Sometimes he sang as he worked, happy just to be alive. Working on the cathedral was peaceful, he said, and he would have done it for free.
Last spring , when the worst finally happened, his work was a salvation.
"She died on a Friday night," he said. "Monday, I was ready for work," he said.
"My children, my grandchildren, they will know, my father, my grandfather worked there," Hernandez said.
"I know it is a minor thing I did. It's like the sand of the sea, of the seashore. But little by little you make the big picture. I am one of those particles of sand. But I am there."
Mike Flucke, an executive with Benson Industries of Portland, Ore., which handled the alabaster and glass, often talked to his workers of their historical role. "Five hundred years from now," he would tell them, "people will look back and wonder about the craftsmen, just as we look at the cathedrals of Europe, and wonder about their craftsmen."
Flucke has visited museums to see the ropes, pulleys and ramps medieval builders used to erect their monuments. Many of them, he said, weren't so different than what was used on this project. His men, who built the steel that held the windows, and placed the alabaster in the lantern where the cross hangs, sometimes had to scramble as many as eight stories of scaffolding to start their work day.
"We were up there in the middle of space," said Al Galvan, who was in charge of the huge concrete cross that dominates the east wall of the cathedral, and is surrounded by veined alabaster that glows at night like a giant beacon. "We had to use a lot of imagination, a lot of new techniques. We had new ways of doing things."
Eddie Lohr, 53, is a partner in Carnevale & Lohr, the company that installed the stone flooring, the altar, the baptismals, the fountains in the plaza, the courtyards and mausoleums. Lohr oversaw 40 to 45 men for almost two years. Lohr is Lutheran, but his company has worked on about 20 Catholic churches over the last two decades. The cathedral, he said, was a humbling project. At times he became overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job and the timetable. He would ask God to help him get from one day to the next. He discovered in himself a new kind of perfectionism. Sometimes, after a long day, he'd be on his knees until 9 p.m., ripping out stones that weren't perfectly laid. "Because when you are working on a cathedral, doing work for the church, for God, it has to be right."
Those who raise their eyes to the geometric beams that crisscross the ceiling will be looking at one of the cathedral's secrets.
Craftsmen who work on them often hide their signatures in rafters. But in July, Charles Coury, manager of the WoodCeilings Inc., the company that made the ceilings, had an inspiration. He wrote to the cardinal: "We would like to staple a Bible verse to the hidden inside portion of one of the 'logs' in order to honor the Lord and acknowledge the privilege we have felt working on this project." He asked the cardinal to select a verse, if he thought it was appropriate.
The cardinal was delighted. "You are most likely the first supplier on the Cathedral Project who has made such a magnificent request, and I commend you for it!" Mahony wrote back, and chose five.
Mary Tyler, WoodCeilings co-owner, chose four more. The nine verses are clustered in the rafters nearly 100 feet above the altar. Matthew 7:8 is directly over the altar, in a spot where the logs intersect: "In my house, says the Lord, everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."
The scripture project pulled the little company together; employees signed each scripture card before it was laminated and stapled to a log. Now the scriptures are a secret, known to only a few.
"To walk through and look up and know that one of my prayers is
up there, one of the scriptures that I personally selected, it is a wonderful,
thrilling, humbling thing," Tyler said. "There are few times
in your life when you are part of a great work. This is one of them."
Creating a Timeless Place in an Ever-Changing City
By Christopher Reynolds
Around 6 Friday evening, a groggy, bespectacled man in a wrinkled blazer slipped undetected into the rear entrance of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The construction workers were gone, the opening was two days off, and the low sun threw orange light sideways across the walls and windows.
"When you stand here," said the man softly, "you feel the walls as sources of light."
"And when you stand here, the ceiling is like wings, folded, protecting you."
Then, as the man pointed up toward the cross behind the altar, a security guard stepped up.
"Architect?" inquired the guard.
Architect, indeed. After six years of work bringing this building from his imagination to the corner of Grand Avenue and Temple Street, Jose Rafael Moneo of Madrid was taking a few covert minutes inside the vast concrete-and-alabaster structure.
"It is always rewarding, and at the same time sad, to finish a work," Moneo said. Earlier in the day, speaking in Spanish to a television interviewer, Moneo compared the vast church to a ship still in dry dock.
"I'm looking forward," he said, "to when the ship is finally out in the ocean."
Moneo, 65, has seen perhaps 80 of his building designs realized in his career, has served as chairman of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design's architecture department (from 1985 to 1990) and has won the highest global honor in architecture, the Pritzker Prize (in 1996, the same year he won the competition to design Los Angeles' new Catholic cathedral).
But before this, Moneo had never designed a religious building and had never had such a high-profile project outside his homeland.
After six years of monthly visits to Los Angeles from Madrid and a vacation on the Spanish island of Majorca that lasted through most of August, Moneo flew into California on Thursday night, just hours ahead of the cathedral's last round of pre-opening news conferences and walk-throughs. For the next week, he said, he'll be quietly hanging around the site, watching it come to life.
"I think we have achieved most of what we were looking for," Moneo said. He also professed deep respect for Cardinal Roger M. Mahony's leadership on the project.
Still, the architect said, he would have liked to have handled more details himself, from the kneelers scattered in chapels around the cathedral to the cardinal's chair by the altar (made by another artist). Most volubly, Moneo has spent months on a futile campaign to reduce the number of hanging lamps over the cathedral's pews.
Many insiders on the project have fretted that the lamps, which resemble downward-aiming trumpets and hold small speakers as well as lightbulbs, mar the visitor's crucial first view of the altar from the rear of the cathedral. Mahony has maintained that the pews need that light. Moneo suggested dryly on Friday that as a worshiper in a pew, "you don't need the same light that you need for surgical intervention.... I am sure the cathedral, with half of the lamps we have today, would be much nicer."
Still, Moneo said, working with Mahony has been simpler than dealing with bureaucracies, and much easier than dealing with the Prado Museum in Madrid, where his design for an extension has been bogged down for years.
Onlookers have been struck by the stark surfaces of the church's sand-colored concrete walls, but their designer has been living with that idea for so long that his gaze travels easily and rapidly across the church exterior. Inside, strolling the aisles and ambulatories, Moneo pointed with satisfaction to several asymmetrical chapels along the entrance ambulatory (the architect's nod to the diverse nature of Mahony's flock); to the vast alabaster clerestory windows, which filter light into sepia hues; to the tall concrete cross behind the altar, which is visible to northbound cars on the Hollywood Freeway, which happens to flow along the Camino Real route blazed by Spanish missionaries in the 18th century.
Continuing his stroll, he frowned at a porcelain Madonna he'd like to see on a higher pedestal, and confessed that he would have liked more input on the mausoleum beneath the cathedral and the cardinal's residence across the plaza. He lamented the lost portico (vetoed by Mahony, the architect said) that would have offered shade to worshipers as they drew close to sculptor Robert Graham's bronze cathedral doors. Yet he shrugged off the fake owl someone had installed above the entrance to discourage birds.
As for the artworks displayed in and around the cathedral, "Don't ask me what features I like and don't like," Moneo said. "There are some that I clearly don't like. But I don't need to share completely with the cardinal his aesthetic tastes."
The principal challenge in the job, Moneo said, was simply coming to a definition of what makes a space sacred today, especially in a community where so many different heritages intersect. Another was crafting a building to last centuries in a city "that is continually liberating itself and changing, always in the process of continual renovation." If his job is done well, Moneo said, "the opinion of people in 50 years won't be any different" from the popular opinion that emerges in coming months and years.
But that's still ahead. At 6:30 Friday evening, the bespectacled man appeared at the mouth of the cathedral parking structure, asking for a taxi that would take him to his Westside hotel.
The parking-lot worker gave the man the same once-over the security guard had. Was he, the worker asked in Spanish, the man who designed the cathedral? Moneo nodded.
"Felicidades," said the worker. "Es muy bonita." (Congratulations. It's very pretty.)
The architect nodded in thanks and headed off to launch his ship.
L.A. Cathedral Is Dedicated
By Larry B. Stammer
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was dedicated Monday, amid ancient prayers and pageantry, as a cathedral for the ages and a house of prayer for all people.
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony led a procession through the cathedral's 25-ton bronze doors to a four-hour service steeped in Catholic ritual dating to the 4th century. Three thousand invited guests expressed their devotion, then watched a sacred dance—a modern innovation in the Western church—and the traditional anointing of the altar and the building with aromatic holy oil.
The 12-story cathedral, built to stand at least 500 years, is the first major American cathedral to be built in three decades. Its dedication as the mother church of the nation's largest and most ethnically diverse Roman Catholic archdiocese culminated eight years of an effort led by Mahony to build a monumental cathedral that he vowed would be worthy of the City of Angels.
"At long last, there is a noble great church at the heart of Los Angeles," Mahony declared as sunlight, distilled to a phosphorous essence by towering windows of Spanish alabaster, streamed into the cavernous nave.
He ended with a shimmering vision of a 21st century cathedral, rooted in 18th century California history, committed to building a just and inclusive community in the state's "most diverse and decidedly most global city."
"From this day forward," he proclaimed, "the stones of this building will sing, echoes rolling down the ages, telling of love and justice through the lives of all who come and go from this house of prayer for all people."
Mahony called the church an "anchor for the ages."
The dedication liturgy on an unusually hot and humid day was witnessed by a personal representative of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican's ambassador to the U.S., 11 other U.S. cardinals and nearly a thousand bishops, priests and deacons in vestments of matching hues of white and adobe.
Also present were more than 1,300 donors and parishioners, many of them among the city's most prominent business, civic and entertainment figures, as well as the Spanish architect, Jose Rafael Moneo, who designed the cathedral.
It was a moment of triumph and celebration for the church, which for the last eight months has been shaken by local and national scandals over the alleged sexual abuse of minors by priests and bishops. For downtown business interests and civic leaders, Monday marked a signal achievement in attempts to bring a new vibrancy to the heart of the city.
And for many of the Los Angeles archdiocese's 5 million Catholics who never ventured to the old St. Vibiana's Cathedral, which languished on the edge of skid row, the day marked an introduction to their first mother church.
St. Vibiana's, a Spanish Baroque building at the long-faded corner of 2nd and Main streets, was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. It has been sold by the archdiocese, and there are plans to convert it into a center for the performing arts.
The design of the Moneo cathedral—which, at 333 feet in length, was designed to be a foot longer than St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York—has drawn both praise and criticism.
Its soaring angular rooflines and feathered concrete walls suggest angels' wings in the abstract for some. Others have complained that the monumental building's austerity and untraditional design are cold and uninspiring.
Demonstrators were on hand Monday to underscore their long-standing criticism of the $189.5-million cost of the cathedral and conference center in view of the ever-present needs of the poor and marginalized. One sign proclaimed, "No Fat Cat Cathedral."
Mahony announced at the end of Monday's service that the cathedral complex had been "fully funded" by cash receipts and pledges.
The $189.5-million "final cost" figure was also released Monday by the archdiocese. Earlier estimates had put the cost at $200 million.
There were also demonstrators who supported the cathedral. "We are praying for you," a sign said. Still others used the occasion to remind the archdiocese of the sexual abuse scandal, in which more than 250 priests nationwide have resigned or been dismissed and scores of bishops have been criticized for lax oversight. A large papier-mache effigy of Mahony held a sign that read, "Suffer the little children."
Mahony made no reference to the scandal in his homily, although he spoke in general terms about the redemption of sinners and the transforming effect of God's word.
Mahony has said in interviews that the cathedral will stand, as cathedrals have through the ages, as a beacon of righteousness and God's love even in the face of scandal and disappointment in the church.
Among the cardinals present were two whose resignations have been demanded by many in their archdioceses—Bernard Law of Boston and Edward M. Egan of New York. Mahony has been critical of Law in the past, but an archdiocese spokesman said it is customary to invite all American cardinals to such an event.
But those controversies appeared to recede, at least for the moment, during the dedication.
"I'm going to feel I'm part of many centuries of devotion," Ernesto Vega, director of Guadalupe House in East Los Angeles, said before the procession. Guadalupe House counsels Latino candidates for the priesthood.
"I'm going to pray for those who come after me. Our mission is to pray for the church in L.A., to pray for future generations," Vega said.
It was a day of firsts: the first procession into the cathedral, the first blessing of the baptistery, the first time the cardinal officially sat in his cathedra, or throne, and the first time the altar was kissed.
It was also the first time the cathedral's 6,019-pipe organ was played during a Mass, the first time the Eucharist was celebrated there and the first time the perpetual sanctuary candle was lighted in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, signifying the presence of the consecrated bread and wine, which Catholics believe is the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
The organ swelled with Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as the procession passed through the bronze doors. Up the long ambulatory they proceeded—men and women, rich and poor, the city's sung and unsung. Their footsteps fell on newly polished stones of Spanish limestone. They passed the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. They passed the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels. They reached a restored 17th century Spanish Baroque Retablo, the gold-leafed backdrop of a forgotten altar. They turned right, then right again to behold a soaring nave with gentle natural light streaming through the alabaster windows. They filled the pews.
"Christus vincit (Christ has conquered)," they proclaimed.
"Christus regnat (Christ reigns)."
"Christus imperat (Christ is supreme)."
A climatic moment came midway through the service, when the building was liturgically transformed into a cathedral. What had, according to tradition, been a mere building, was made holy in the next few minutes as Mahony, wearing a linen apron tied with cardinal red apron strings, liberally poured aromatic chrism—holy oil—on the square, seven-ton, burgundy-colored altar of Turkish marble that he designed. He then spent several minutes spreading the oil over the surface with his bare palm.
Minutes later, five Los Angeles auxiliary bishops and the archdiocese's vicar general fanned out through the congregation with bowls of holy oil and stained the cathedral walls, tracing three-foot high crosses beneath 12 bronze and silver angels as a sign of baptism. The stains are expected to be noticeable for months, if not years.
In another dramatic moment, thick plumes of incense smoke billowed from a large basin set on the altar and rose almost 10 stories to the cathedral's wood ceiling as a sign of prayers going to heaven.
Next, 12 sacred dancers—diminutive Vietnamese nuns in navy blue and white habits—gracefully glided around the altar and through the cathedral with uplifted bowls of burning incense. The dance by the Vietnamese Lovers of the Holy Cross filled the cathedral with the sweet scent of chrism.
Mahony said the cathedral, resting on the heritage of the Spanish missions built along El Camino Real by 18th century Franciscans, was a milestone on a spiritual road to God and community.
"Today," Mahony declared in his homily, which he read from a TelePrompTer, "the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels joins the storied ranks of the early missions, the first permanent structures built across the California landscape.
"It sinks its foundations in the very heart of the City of Los Angeles, astride today's El Camino Real—today's less colorfully named Hollywood Freeway—where it will stand and soar for many centuries as a sign of God's enduring presence in our lives and community."
Mindful of those who have criticized the archdiocese for spending so much on a new cathedral, Mahony said the cathedral would stand as a champion for justice and a unifier in the secular city.
His homily was replete with appeals for "a more humane and just city." He spoke of "the longings of our larger city" and "links across social classes." He called for "cooperative living." He said the cathedral plaza should be a place where "the poor and rich mingle."
"God's word always calls us to move beyond our fears and limitations, to take risks that will fashion us more and more into God's image," Mahony said. "Anyone who comes here should continue on their journey with a replenished spirit of respect for all other peoples—in a special way, rendering thanks for the gift of ethnic diversity in this great urban center. No traces of discrimination or racism are to be found in this space. God's temple is a house for all peoples."
It was a theme repeated by Pope John Paul in a letter read by his envoy, Vatican Cardinal James F. Stafford. "May this cathedral always remain an eloquent symbol of communion and fraternity, of mutual respect and understanding," the pope wrote.
Mahony sounded a note of caution, lest the archdiocese become caught up with the cathedral, but not its meaning.
"Is all this splendor and architectural artistry enough for us?"
he asked. "Can we rest content with the beauty arising from this
spot? We must answer an emphatic 'No!' Not as a kind of cultural treasure
was the cathedral built. As a vibrant symbol of God's habitat in our city,
this outer form must find an echo in the inner graces of a people who
listen intently to God's word, as it comes to us as challenge and consolation,"
Pomp Past, Masses Flock to Cathedral
By Larry B. Stammer and Hector Becerra
A day after the elite of Los Angeles and princes of the church filled the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels at its invitation-only dedication, the soaring edifice Tuesday became a cathedral for the common man and woman.
Surprising even the priests who hoped for a good turnout, an estimated 1,200 people showed up for the first daily Mass at 7 a.m. An additional 2,500 attended the 12:10 p.m. Mass, part of a first-day crowd that archdiocese officials estimated at 12,000.
Norwalk resident Margarita Gonzalez, 68, took a bus, the Green Line train and then the Blue Line to get to the new downtown landmark. The trip from her home to the statue of Mary at the cathedral lasted an hour and 40 minutes.
Kneeling before the statue, Gonzalez prayed and dabbed her tears with a tissue. "They say it cost $200 million, and that it was a waste of money," she said. "But really it's all for God. What's $200 million for God?"
Many of Tuesday's visitors were as excited and awestruck as the business, civic and political leaders at Monday's dedication liturgy.
"This is magnificent, I tell you," said Rob Lazaga of Duarte. "The people who come here will see the flow of Jesus' life into their own. It could be transforming."
"It's kind of overwhelming," said Matt Hourihan, 44, of Pasadena, who left the church 20 years ago. "All the thought that went into it. It makes me want to return to the church."
Priests and others who had been present Monday said the mood was different Tuesday. There were far more displays of simple piety and many more tears.
After the 12:10 p.m. Mass, a line 90 feet long formed inside the cathedral, as the devout waited to approach the 14-foot tall wooden cross bearing the cast-bronze corpus of the suffering Jesus.
Officials of the archdiocese had invited cathedral visitors to walk around the altar and approach the crucifix. They did not expect what happened next.
One after another, worshipers went up to the statue, crossed themselves and began to touch it, many with tears in their eyes. They rubbed the bronze feet of the suffering savior; they rubbed the flayed and abraded skin. They lingered.
The scene reminded some of the way pilgrims rub the bronze feet of a statue of St. Peter in the Basilica in Vatican City that bears his name. Over the ages, the toes on Peter's feet have disappeared from the rubbings.
"It's really amazing," said archdiocesan spokesman Tod Tamberg. "You could see 500 years from now the tradition here is to kiss the shins and touch the shins of the crucifix--and it's starting today."
Those in Tuesday's crowd were mostly working people, kneeling, praying, paying $2 and lighting a votive candle.
A Latino couple stood in silence for several minutes in the cathedral plaza before a shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico. "It is beautiful in my heart," Marcos de la Cruz of Van Nuys said in broken English.
Maria Gutierrez, 75, a Pico Rivera resident and native of Guatemala, tarried before the painting of Mexico's patroness a little bit longer than her niece and her two small children. As her relatives walked away, Gutierrez, with halting steps, ventured closer to the painting and, standing amid the other onlookers, gazed at it shyly.
"It's a real beauty," she said. "Guatemalans don't venerate her the same way Mexicans do, but to me she is the world's mother and a mother to me. I love her dearly."
Inside the cathedral, secretaries on their lunch hour and a Latino family reverently knelt in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel before the stylized tabernacle containing the consecrated bread and wine, which Catholics believe is the body and blood of Jesus Christ. A little girl took a long-stemmed rose from a bouquet her mother had brought and gently laid it on the floor before the tabernacle.
There were old people in wheelchairs, young mothers with infants, working men in white cotton T-shirts, and a teenage boy wearing a baseball cap and headphones. "Oh, my God, it's beautiful and it's joyful. It's a different feeling. It's just like floating up in the air," said Rebecca Cate of La Canada Flintridge.
One man carried a plastic grocery bag as he kissed the ring of Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the archbishop of Los Angeles. An old woman approached the cardinal and wept as he blessed her.
"God bless you. Thanks for coming," Mahony told one. "Congratulations," someone told the cardinal. Another momentarily held his hand. "Thank you for your beautiful cathedral," he said.
"Our cathedral," Mahony corrected him.
Commenting on those who held a banner Monday protesting the cost of the
cathedral, the cardinal said, "I wish people carrying 'No Fat Cat
Cathedral' signs could have been here today."
Bishop Accountability © 2003
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